HOUSTON — A death row inmate who was part of the notorious “Texas 7” gang of escaped prisoners has lost a federal court appeal, moving him a step closer to execution.

Joseph Garcia has been turned down at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Attorneys for the 45-year-old Garcia argued he had deficient legal help at his trial and during earlier appeals.

After their December 2000 breakout from a South Texas prison, the gang committed numerous robberies, including the Christmas Eve holdup of a sporting goods store in the Dallas suburb of Irving where a police officer, 29-year-old Aubrey Hawkins, was killed.

The fugitives were captured in Colorado after a six-week national manhunt. One killed himself there.

Garcia and two others remain on death row. Three have been executed.